Branches of Accounting, Uses of Accounting and Limitations of Financial Accounting

Accounting vs. Book-keepingBook-keeping concerns itself with the recording (correctly and in a set of books) of those transactions that result in the transfer of money or money’s worth. Whereas accounting is comprehensive in perspective. It extends to classifying, summarizing, presenting and even analyzing accounting information .

Accounting vs. Accountancy

Body of knowledge (consisting of principles, postulates, assumptions, conventions, concepts and rules) governing the science of recording classifying and analyzing financial transactions is accounting. Whereas the practice and art of the science of accounting is termed as accountancy.To meet the ever increasing demands made on accounting by different interested parties (such as owners, management, creditors, taxation authorities etc.) the various branches have come into existence. Financial AccountingThe object of financial accounting is to ascertain the result (profit or loss) of business operations during the particular period and to state the financial position (Balance Sheet) as on a date at the end of the period.

Cost Accounting

The object of cost accounting is to find out the cost of goods produced or services rendered by a business. It also helps the business in controlling the costs by indicating avoidable losses and wastes.Management AccountingThe object of management accounting is to supply relevant information at appropriate time to the management to enable it to take decision and effect control.In this web primer, we are concerned only with financial accounting. The objects of financial accounting as stated above can be achieved only by recording the financial transactions in a systematic manner according to a set of principles. The recorded information has to be classified, analyzed and presented in a manner in which business results and financial position can be ascertained.

Uses of Accounting

Accounting plays important and useful role by developing the information for providing answers to many questions faced by the users of accounting information.

(1) How good or bad is the financial condition of the business?

(2) Has the business activity resulted in a profit or loss?

(3) How well the different departments of the business have performed in the past?

(4) Which activities or products have been profitable?

(5) Out of the existing products which should be discontinued and the production of which commodities should be increased.

(6) Whether to buy a component from the market or to manufacture the same?

(7) Whether the cost of production is reasonable or excessive?

(8) What has been the impact of existing policies on the profitability of the business?

(9) What are the likely results of new policy decisions on future earning capacity of the business?

(10) In the light of past performance of the business how it should plan for future to ensure desired results ?

Above mentioned are few examples of the types of questions faced by the users of accounting information. These can be satisfactorily answered with the help of suitable and necessary information provided by accounting.

Besides, accounting is also useful in the following respects :-

(1) Increased volume of business results in large number of transactions and no businessman can remember everything. Accounting records obviate the necessity of remembering various transactions.

(2) Accounting record, prepared on the basis of uniform practices, will enable a business to compare results of one period with another period.

(3) Taxation authorities (both income tax and sales tax) are likely to believe the facts contained in the set of accounting books if maintained according to generally accepted accounting principles.

(4) Cocooning records, backed up by proper and authenticated vouchers are good evidence in a court of law.

(5) If a business is to be sold as a going concern then the values of different assets as shown by the balance sheet helps in bargaining proper price for the business.

Limitations of Financial Accounting

Advantages of accounting discussed in this section do not suggest that accounting is free from limitations.

Following are the limitations:

Financial accounting permits alternative treatmentsAccounting is based on concepts and it follows ” generally accepted principles” but there exist more than one principle for the treatment of any one item. This permits alternative treatments with in the framework of generally accepted principles. For example, the closing stock of a business may be valued by anyone of the following methods: FIFO (First-in- First-out), LIFO (Last-in-First-out), Average Price, Standard Price etc., but the results are not comparable.

Financial accounting does not provide timely information

It is not a limitation when high powered software application like HiTech Financial Accenting are used to keep online and concurrent accounts where the balance sheet is made available almost instantaneously. However, manual accounting does have this shortcoming.

Financial accounting is designed to supply information in the form of statements (Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Account) for a period normally one year. So the information is, at best, of historical interest and only ‘post-mortem’ analysis of the past can be conducted. The business requires timely information at frequent intervals to enable the management to plan and take corrective action. For example, if a business has budgeted that during the current year sales should be $ 12,00,000 then it requires information whether the sales in the first month of the year amounted to $ 10,00,000 or less or more?

Traditionally, financial accounting is not supposed to supply information at shorter interval less than one year. With the advent of computerized accounting now a software like HiTech Financial Accounting displays monthly profit and loss account and balance sheet to overcome this limitation. Financial accounting is influenced by personal judgments’Convention of objectivity’ is respected in accounting but to record certain events estimates have to be made which requires personal judgment. It is very difficult to expect accuracy in future estimates and objectivity suffers. For example, in order to determine the amount of depreciation to be charged every year for the use of fixed asset it is required estimation and the income disclosed by accounting is not authoritative but ‘approximation’.

Financial accounting ignores important non-monetary information

Financial accounting does not consider those transactions of non- monetary in nature. For example, extent of competition faced by the business, technical innovations possessed by the business, loyalty and efficiency of the employees; changes in the value of money etc. are the important matters in which management of the business is highly interested but accounting is not tailored to take note of such matters. Thus any user of financial information is, naturally, deprived of vital information which is of non-monetary character. In modern times a good accounting software with MIS and CRM can be most useful to overcome this limitation partially.

Financial Accounting does not provide detailed analysis

The information supplied by the financial accounting is in reality aggregates of the financial transactions during the course of the year. Of course, it enables to study the overall results of the business the information is required regarding the cost, revenue and profit of each product but financial accounting does not provide such detailed information product- wise. For example, if business has earned a total profit of say, $ 5,00,000 during the accounting year and it sells three products namely petrol. diesel and mobile oil and wants to know profit earned by each product Financial accounting is not likely to help him unless he uses a computerized accounting system capable of handling such complex queries. Many reports in a computer accounting software like HiTech Financial Accounting which are explained with graphs and customized reports as per need of the business overcome this limitation.

Financial Accounting does not disclose the present value of the business

In financial accounting the position of the business as on a particular date is shown by a statement known as ‘Balance Sheet’. In Balance Sheet the assets are shown on the basis of “Continuing Entity Concept. Thus it is presumed that business has relatively longer life and will continue to exist indefinitely, hence the asset values are ‘going concern values.’ The ‘realized value’ of each asset if sold to-day can’t be known by studying the balance sheet.

The author is an engineering graduate, B.E.(Hons), and is managing his own software development firm, HiTech Computer Services, that mainly deals in accounting, billing and inventory control software for traders, industries, business houses, hotels, hospitals, medical stores, newspapers, magazines, petrol pumps, automobile dealers, commodity brokers and other business segments, website and web application development for business. The software are available both for intranet and internet.

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